Subject: OWSA: Rights Group Calls for Tribunal to Try Indonesia's Accused

Rights Group Calls for Tribunal to Try Indonesia's Accused Thu Mar 6, 6:46 AM ET Kalyani, OneWorld South Asia

New Delhi, March 6 (OWSA) ­ As Indonesia rejected last week's indictment of high-ranking officers for alleged crimes against the East Timorese, a human rights group urged the international community to set up a tribunal to bring them to justice.

The Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) in East Timor (news - web sites) set up by the United Nations (news - web sites), charged eight Indonesian military officers, East Timorese militia leaders and others with human rights violations against the civilian population of East Timor in 1999.

A statement by the SCU said the accused, who included former Indonesian minister of Defense and Armed Forces Commander General Wiranto, had also been indicted for " funding, arming, training and directing the militia." The charges included murder, arson, destruction of property and forced relocation.

While rejecting the indictments, Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Minister Hasan Wirajuda said the government would "simply ignore" them.

Significantly, Indonesia's top legislative body had also passed a law in 2000 prohibiting retroactive prosecution for human rights violations.

As a consequence, the East Timor Action Network U.S. (ETAN), a support group for the Asian nation based in the United States, urged the United Nations and the U.S to pressure Indonesia to take action against the accused.

"We urge the UN as well as the Bush administration to press Indonesia to extradite officials charged by prosecutors in East Timor with crimes against humanity and other serious crimes," ETAN spokesperson John M. Miller said this week.

ETAN's call followed indictments filed by East Timor against senior Indonesian officers and others on February 24 for massacres in the former Indonesian colony. The armed attacks by Indonesian militia followed an election in East Timor on August 30, 1999, in which the people voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia after being ruled by it for 25 years.

In a recent statement, the New York-based international human rights body, Human Rights Watch, also requested Indonesia to hand over the indicted Indonesian officials to a joint U.N.-East Timor court established to prosecute the organizers of the violence. "The international community should call on Jakarta to extradite all indicted Indonesian officials for trial in (capital) Dili " it said.

ETAN stressed that as Indonesia refused to accept the charges, the international community should intervene. It believed the United Nations had a significant role to play since ten UN workers were among the estimated 1,000 to 2,000 people killed in the violence.

"...the UN should be forcefully advocating that those responsible for such serious crimes be brought to justice," said Miller. "The UN must heed East Timorese victims' cries for justice or risk endangering its own missions."

The rights group believed it was important for the international community to intercede not only because the United Nations had been targeted in the violence, but also due to the "inability of the new nation" to seek justice on its own.

Miller demanded that,"UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) and the Security Council must establish an international tribunal with sufficient authority and resources to try these and other suspects."

Earlier too, the call for a tribunal was voiced after an Indonesian ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor acquitted six Indonesian military and police officers in a trial last year.

Though the former governor of East Timor, Abilio Jose Osorio Soares, was found guilty and sentenced to three years' imprisonment, human rights bodies were upset over the acquittal of former regional Police Commander, Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, in charge of security in 1999.

Silaen was acquitted along with five other military, police and government officials.

In a statement on August 15, Amnesty International said, "...the trials were seriously flawed, have not been performed in accordance with international standards, and have delivered neither truth nor justice."

In December 2001, the Special Panel convicted ten members of a militia group in East Timor's first trial for crimes against humanity for Serious Crimes. All the accused were given sentences ranging from four to 19 years for single acts, while four were given the maximum sentence of 33 years and four months for committing multiple crimes.

The Special Panel, set up in June 2000 comprising one East Timorese and two international judges, was trying cases of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, sexual offences and torture, that occurred in East Timor between January 1 and October 25, 1999.

East Timor became the youngest nation in the world last May after a Presidential election that marked the end of a three-year UN-supervised transition of the country from an embattled region fighting Indonesian forces to an independent republic. Indonesia occupied East Timor in 1975; days after the Portuguese left the Asian territory after colonizing it for more than four centuries.

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